WITH autumn fast approaching, we’re getting ready for the new season’s ingredients to arrive in the kitchen, which means a fresh range of dishes to try at the restaurant and at home. But this month, there’s still a chance to make the most of the last of those great, late summer ingredients. The humble courgette is ideal at this time of year because it works equally well in salads as in warming soups and stews. Perfect when the weather is as unpredictable as it has been here recently.
The gentle, delicate flavour of courgettes also lends itself really well to fresh salads. You can either grate them raw or cut them into strips, as in this goat’s cheese salad. Adding salt and oil to the fresh, raw courgettes softens them naturally without the need for cooking, and you still get the wonderful fresh flavour and slight crunch against the creamy, soft cheese.
If you’re hoping to use up the last of the season’s courgettes, you can try these delicious filo tarts, or make some lovely homemade courgette soup for lunches. You can even prepare a batch of courgette chutney to last you through to autumn. And don’t assume that courgettes only work in savoury dishes. They’re just as good in desserts, rather like carrot or beetroot.
COURGETTE AND GOAT'S CHEESE SALAD
For the candied hazelnuts:
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp water
150g hazelnuts – blanched
sprinkle of salt
For the salad:
1 large green courgette
1 large yellow courgette
200g goat’s cheese
100g peas – shelled
150g candied hazelnuts
handful of mint leaves
sea salt and cracked black pepper
To make the candied hazelnuts: Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan on a high heat and add the sugar and water. Bring to a simmer, then cook for about 4-5 minutes, until the water becomes a warm golden colour. Add the hazelnuts and salt and stir for 1 minute. Pour the mix on to a lined baking tray and place in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
To make the salad: Slice both the green and yellow courgettes on a fine mandolin. Season with sea salt, cracked black pepper and olive oil, and mix gently together with your hands, covering the courgettes. Place in a bowl and then crumble in the goat’s cheese. Add torn mint leaves, then toss everything together. Add the peas, then the candied hazelnuts, and continue to mix. Serve either in a big bowl for everyone to help themselves, or on individual plates finished with finely chopped mint.
COURGETTE AND AUBERGINE FILO TARTS
Makes nine tarts
50g butter, melted
250g packet ready-made filo
olive oil for cooking
1 aubergine, diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 green courgette, diced
1 yellow courgette, diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
100g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp chopped basil, plus a few
torn leaves to finish
1 tbsp chopped black olives
100g mozzarella, diced
1 tsp dried herbes de Provence
Heat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Brush nine ramekin pots with melted butter. Lay one filo sheet on a board and brush with melted butter, then place another sheet of filo pastry on top and brush with butter again. Cut out 12cm squares and use a pair of filo squares to line one pot. Repeat for the remaining pots. Bake in the oven for five minutes until golden.
Meanwhile, heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a generous drizzle of olive oil. When hot, add the diced aubergine, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the cumin. Cook until slightly golden on both sides, then remove to a sieve with a slotted spoon and leave to drain.
Heat a little more oil in the pan, then add the chopped courgettes and cook, turning to colour both sides, for 3-4 minutes. Remove and place with the aubergine to drain off excess oil.
Put the aubergine and courgettes into a large bowl. Add the garlic, cherry tomato halves, chopped basil and olives and toss together.
Now divide the vegetable filling evenly between the filo cases. Top with the mozzarella and sprinkle with the dried herbs. Bake for 6-8 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and bubbling. Serve scattered with a few torn basil leaves.